Top Internet marketing agencies get that way because they have developed best practices over the years, especially in the way they manage accounts. If you have never worked with an agency before or are in between agencies, looking for some guidance, then our checklist of what to watch for in an account manager should prove helpful. Some people think that interviewing Internet marketing agencies’ principals is sufficient. Surely the agency president or owner will assign a competent campaign manager to you – or will they? The top Internet marketing agencies employ top people, but it may still take some ferreting out of these agencies. Not every top agency is located in the big advertising centers. A fair number of them are small companies comprised of professionals who may have worked for years for larger firms, and who have now opened their own marketing agencies. Still others have been in business for years and they have kept their agencies small so they can work as boutique providers. The interview process, especially a ‘get to know you’ session with your potential campaign manager, will pay big dividends later.

The first thing you should look for in an account manager is a genuine interest in your business. The manager should ask you even more questions than you ask him or her. Patiently listening, taking notes and probing for more information are all good signs that the manager is shrewd and looking for ways to create strategies from the facts you’ve provided.

Next the manager should want to know what your motivation for hiring an agency is: Specifically, the account manager will want to discover what your online marketing goals are. Once this point has been established, a savvy manager will explore further. The manager will want to know about potential barriers to success: Are your competitors building a new store near you? Have you recently lost your best salesman? What about that new Canadian subsidiary you just bought? Scenarios like these and many more points will be up for discussion. It’s your job to help the manager flesh out all of the details. Top account managers will match your responses to an online marketing strategy that will work for you.

So how do you find a top account manager and what do you do if you think you can’t afford one?

A simple Google search should reveal top Internet marketing companies in your area. Don’t be afraid to look outside your area, too, as with today’s technology it is possible to build a good relationship with an agency that is hundreds or thousands of miles away. Don’t automatically assume you cannot afford a top account manager. Dedicated individuals exist along the entire spectrum of agencies. Some informational interviewing will uncover digital marketing agencies at your price point.

Ideally it would be great to work with an account manager who has expertise in your industry. This isn’t necessary, as what you’re really looking for is someone who is conscientious, capable of coordinating all the moving parts in a campaign, and who is incredibly detail-oriented. The perfect account manager doesn’t exist. One that works well with you, does. You will find that person with a bit of time invested interviewing some of the top agencies in your area.

Here’s one of the most important questions you can ask a potential account manager: ‘You’ve told me about your campaign management achievements. Tell me about how you overcame an obstacle to a campaign’s success.’ You will want to see how your manager will meet with a barrier to success and push past it to your goal.